[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 193
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Fenris ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Dick jokes, uncomfortable reminders of Kinloch Hold, conversations about the Knight-Commander’s questionable policy decisions
Notes: Fenris gets a letter he’s been waiting for. The Kirkwall Weekly Gazette publishes an unspeakable bit of fiction.
Letters (and flowers) were usually for Artemis. That was how it worked. So when Orana approached Fenris with a bit of parchment in her hand, he barely looked up from the book he was reading — something dreadful and Orlesian he was certain Artemis had gotten him as a joke — and gruffly told her that Artemis was out in the garden.
But Orana shook her head. "It’s for you, messere."
Orana stretched out the parchment again, and this time Fenris took it, setting the book aside. The paper was worn and velvety at the edges and at the creases as he opened it, spreading it out across his lap. He didn’t notice Orana bow her head and slip back out the door.
His eyes drifted to the bottom of the letter first, and he recognised his sister’s name. It pleased him to finally be able to read her letters without Bethany’s assistance. Most of the letter was the usual pleasantries about the weather in Qarinus, and how nice it was to be by the sea. She’d seen two boys fighting with sticks, in the market, and thought of him. And, yes, she was definitely going to be there for the wedding. Wouldn’t miss it. There were a few lines about their mother, and how she wished their mother had lived to see this, but Fenris had no recollection of the woman. He had doubts that any of it would return, but if his sister could forgive him his memory, then perhaps it didn’t matter. Perhaps she could remember enough for both of them.
A family. When had that happened? First the Hawkes, and now this forgotten sister, who would finally meet him. A wedding, with his own blood watching. That was important, he knew, even if he still wasn’t quite sure what to do with the idea. He took the letter with him, and went down to the garden, to tell Artemis.
He found Artemis sunning himself by the pond, one hand tucked under his head. Artie was engrossed in some reading of his own, a news rag that proved to Fenris that something didn’t have to be Orlesian to be dreadful, going by the headline: "SECRET TEVINTER RICHES UNDER KIRKWALL? Bert Quagmire investigates!"
"Amatus," Fenris said, casting a shadow over Artemis’s face.
"Hello, Fenris," Artemis said, tilting his head towards Fenris without looking away from the article he was reading. "You wouldn’t believe the stuff they’ve found under Kirkwall! I wonder if Anders is aware of this…"
"Amatus," Fenris said again.
"And apparently Anton has been giving interviews? Should I be concerned? I swear, if he mentions the bull incident —"
"Amatus," Fenris said once more, and Artie finally looked up.
"Mm?" Fenris took the paper out of Artemis’s hands and replaced it with the letter. "Oh. Oh. Is this from your sister?"
Fenris nodded. "She’ll be here. My sister. At our wedding." He paused. "All of these words have meanings, but I am suddenly having difficulty with them. I have a sister. I’m getting married. I’m in love with a delightful mage. This is not a life I ever imagined for myself, living in a noble estate, reading letters from long-lost relatives. This is a very strange position I find myself in."
Artie’s whole face lit in a smile, and he set the letter aside, reaching up for his elf. "Come here. If you’re going to be in a strange position, you might as well be down here with me."
Fenris let himself be tugged down into the grass, stretching out next to Artemis.
"I can’t say this is a life I ever imagined for myself either," Artie said, cupping Fenris’s cheek, "not when Cormac and I were shaking fruit from the trees in Lothering." He laughed weakly, shaking his head.
"We have come a long way from where we began." Fenris kissed Artemis warmly, lips twisting into a regretful half-smile. "I’m sorry about the house. And that I nearly killed you. … Twice. I think it was only twice. Still twice too many times." And this fool mage was still going to marry him, which he was relatively sure didn’t actually have anything to do with the goat.
Artemis chuckled, brushing the fringe back out of Fenris’s eyes. "Please," he said. "If I held a grudge against everyone who almost killed me, I wouldn’t have any siblings. It’s like a rite of passage for this family. Plus the ‘mage floors’ evened it out, I think." It was something Artie could joke about now, even if a part of him still went cold at the memory of Fenris coming at him in the Fade.
"At least you disposed of those demon-manufactured sheets." An amused hum was all that escaped of the laugh Fenris held back. He supposed the mage-floors were appropriate retaliation for any harm he might have brought to his mage. And any harm he might, in the future, bring, since that was clearly something Artemis could repeat, as he’d proven with Anders’s floors. "Tell me, Amatus. What’s on page six, this week? Shall we read it together?"
Artie turned his answering laugh into a cough. "Oh, it’s… it’s a gem, this week," he said, gesturing for Fenris to wait as he grabbed up the rag and thumbed through the pages. He cleared his throat, angling the paper so Fenris could read it too. "‘The Staff of Violation: a tale of the forbidden lusts between the Knight-Commander and First Enchanter’."
"I didn’t think you’d be so interested in what the Knight-Commander had under her armour. You seem to be a bit more into staves, yourself. Unless this is one of those stories…" Fenris looked a bit distressed at the idea, for a moment, but managed to shake it. "Will you be violating me with your staff, as we read, Amatus? Seems a bit ambitious for you," he purred nuzzling Artemis’s ear.
This time Artie’s laugh came out as a snort. "Well, Fen," he said, arching his neck for Fenris to kiss. "Only if you plan to play the part of Orsino… and you mean my literal staff." He cut a glance to Fenris, shoulders shaking.
"What." Fenris’s eyes darted between the page and his lover. "Actual… Are you telling me this has her putting… Fasta vass! That’s even more disgusting than last week! I will not be using your actual staff for … this. Or anything like it! Nor would you, I expect. That would be extremely messy to clean up."
Shoulders still shaking, Artie pressed a kiss to Fenris’s cheek and tugged a twitching ear. "No, no. I thought we could use from poetic license." He bit his lip around a smirk and gave Fenris a coy look. "What do you say we take this upstairs? You lose the pants, and I’ll get the jade wand of ass-destruction."
"As long as it’s not my ass…"
Cullen came into the house with a copy of Kirkwall’s weekly broadsheet of bullshit clenched in one hand, and barrelled smack into the cellar door, as Anders threw it open, the same broadsheet clenched in much the same way.
"Door!?" Cullen shouted, batting it back the way it had come, before checking his face for damage.
"Andraste’s ass! Cullen! I didn’t mean to—" Anders flicked his hand, casting a healing spell before the bruising could even begin. He spotted the rag in Cullen’s hand. "Have you seen page six? Because I like page six, but that’s just…"
"Just…? Beyond just…!" Cullen’s voice was an octave higher than it usually was. "I’d rather a broken nose than… this! Can you heal this? Can you heal my brain and make it so I never read this?"
"Maker, I wish," Anders said, massaging his temple with a thumb. "‘The Staff of Violation’. I’ll never unsee that, now."
"You don’t have to work with either of them," Cullen muttered.
"No, but I have to work in the wake of this! What kind of voice do I have for mages as … people, when I’ve got this trash sexualising our oppression?" The paper crinkled in Anders’s hand as his fist clenched. "And considering what you and I know actually went on in the Gallows, I find this even more disgusting than usual."
Cullen looked ill. That was, in fact, a great deal worse than having to see that staff every day or wondering what insane designs Meredith would dream up after seeing this. Which she would, he had no doubt. "I think it’s a lot less disgusting if it didn’t come from inside. And if it did, Meredith’s going to find this poor stupid bastard, and I’d rather not consider what happens after that. I might be a little more concerned about her picking the wrong one — or just picking someone to make an example of. She’s big on examples."
"Yes, I’ve noticed," Anders said, his knuckles white around the crumpled paper. "I don’t want someone to end up tranquil because of this… this drivel!"
Cullen hoped it wouldn’t come to that. "I like to think Meredith isn’t quite that… unreasonable," he said. But then, lately he didn’t know what to think about Meredith.
"Starkhaven," Anders deadpanned. "I don’t know what you know, but the mages in the courtyard talk. If you can find anyone left from Starkhaven’s circle, ask them what happened when they got here. If you can find me evidence that it wasn’t unreasonable, I’ll hear you out, but somebody needs to tell the rest of those mages why three of them were selected seemingly at random, to ‘set an example’."
"Blood magic. I can almost guarantee that’s what will be in the documentation. Blood magic, consorting with demons, or inciting rebellion. Tranquil or dead?" Cullen asked, trying to remember when the mages from Starkhaven had first arrived. Years, now.
"Dead. Combine that with the fact the Gallows is nearly out of healers, and no one seems to know what happened to them. I think she’s rather inclined to demonstrations." An uncomfortable look passed over Anders’s face, and the irritation gave way to fear. "Do you remember what happened to that recruit… What was his name, Kerry? Kenan?"
"Keran?" Cullen’s expression went blank. "You can’t possibly be suggesting that the Knight-Commander is an abomination."
"I don’t know," Anders said, throwing his arms out wide. "But we can’t rule anything out! While she’s being hypervigilant about mages, who’s keeping her in line? Elthina?" He’d never poured so much derision into one name, except maybe Alrik’s. "Please."
"I am," Cullen said with more confidence than he felt. "Or… well, at least I’m trying to. You know that."
Anders bit his tongue against saying something insulting. Cullen, at least, was a templar trying to help. "That’s an awful lot of responsibility," he said carefully. "And how has that been, lately?"
Cullen opened his mouth and closed it again, muttering "Don’t say ‘horseshit’ to the nice Warden, Captain." He looked up at Anders and gave up. "It’s horseshit. And you didn’t hear me say that. I don’t say things like that. The level of horseshit upon horseshit in this city is on my last nerve, and if they didn’t have me by the lyrium, I’d be tempted to tell the Knight-Commander where she could stuff this job! And I didn’t say that either."
"Your mouth keeps moving, but where are the words?" Anders shrugged and studied a chandelier.
"But, I’ve seen it, and it’s not supposed to be this way. I’ve read the history. I know the law. And this is not what the Order is for. Nearly none of this is what the Order is for." Cullen unfolded the paper in his hands and smoothed it. "I became a templar for a man who is now my brother. Just as much to protect him as to protect anyone else from him. You should have seen him, Anders. He was so afraid. And fear makes people do foolish things. We’re not supposed to fight mages. We’re supposed to fight fear. Sometimes that has to end in killing people, unfortunately, but I’m not seeing the deaths here doing that work. I’m not seeing people who feel safe, in or out of the Gallows."
In the back of Anders’s mind, Justice paced like a caged tiger, growling his assent. "The thing about fighting fear," he said, "is that people need a symbol to pin that fear on. It’s not fair, but it’s a fact. You can be afraid of magic and what it can do, but you can’t do much about magic, specifically. Mages, on the other hand, are an easier target." He shrugged, shaking his head. "Symbols are important," he said in that muttering-to-himself way he adopted now and then. "What we need is another symbol…"
Cullen sighed, gestured with the crumpled paper still in his hands. "Regardless," he said, "do you have somewhere we could burn these?"
Anders gestured toward the main hall, which contained a fireplace. "We should consider buying as many as we can get our hands on and sinking them in the bay. The tides will pull them out, and the paper’s cheap." He paused, standing back from the fireplace and waving Cullen ahead of him. "I meant to ask… there’s a mention of ‘the glow of her fiery red sword’, in here. Is that some metaphorical suggestion of ‘swording’, or does she actually have a glowing red sword? I’ve seen her carrying, but I’ve never seen her draw it."
"She has a completely bizarre sword, yes. She claims it’s forged lyrium, and none of us are allowed to touch it, but I’ve only ever seen lyrium turn blue." Cullen shrugged. "I figured it was some trick of the smith’s. Obviously dwarven work, if it’s got lyrium in it. Why do you ask?"
The blood drained from Anders’s face. He’d only seen red lyrium once before, in that Maker-damned idol Bartrand had taken from the Deep Roads. Justice had heard its song, but the notes were different than blue lyrium. He wanted to believe it was a coincidence. "Just curious," he said, gaze distant. "Do you know how long she’s had the sword?"
Cullen scratched his chin, thinking back. The last few years had all been a bit of a blur, between the Qunari and Anton… "I… want to say a couple years? I’m not sure, honestly. I do remember seeing it for the first time. Or noticing it. It’s this bright, glowy red. Glowy. It glows. Have you ever seen a glowing sword?" There had been a moment where he thought he’d seen the same red glow in Meredith’s eyes, but he hesitated saying that.
"I haven’t. I’ve seen some other glowing things, though. As you say, most of them are blue." Anders gestured at the fireplace, not yet willing to comment further on the idea of red lyrium. It was something to mention to Varric, though. "If you want to burn that, we’re going to need fire."
"Oh, I thought you could just…" Cullen waved a hand vaguely.
"It’s a talent I’m not fond of. I’d rather not." Which really didn’t begin to touch on how averse Anders was to fire magic, in non-critical situations, but he thought he should leave out the ‘burned down a barn’ and ‘melted an ancient Tevinter Magister’ parts of the story.
"Ah. Right." Cullen gave Anders a curious look but didn’t question. Something nagged at his memory, something from Kinloch Hold about Anders and fire. He didn’t like poking at those memories and thought it best not to. Instead, Cullen poked around in a pouch at his belt for his fire steel. He laid down the paper in the fireplace, and within minutes it was on fire.
"Well, I feel much better," Cullen said, watching the flames swallow the paper.
Anders wadded up his own copy of the paper and tossed it into the low flame. He hung back from the fireplace, but his eyes never looked away. "How are the chances of Anton subtly removing this issue from existence, before the Knight-Commander ends up with a copy? Does she even read this trash?"
"I don’t know if she reads it, but enough of the men do. It’ll find her." Cullen shook his head and watched the papers burn. "I was just on my way to see Anton about exactly that, when you hit me with the door."
Anders sighed and watched the shadows of the trees dance across the ceiling. "If you can’t find anyone else, I can be conscripted to set things on fire. I’d really rather throw it all in the bay, though. If it’ll save lives, I’ll burn things. Paper things. Carefully. Fire’s usually less suspicious than raining indoors, which is the other plan." He squinted at Cullen. "And those are both terrible plans. I hope Anton’s home."